VIRUS - Oblivion Clock
Founded in 2000 by Czral after the demise of his band Ved Buens Ende, the drummer turned guitarist considers Virus as the continuation of his earlier project. And while Norway has always been associated with harsh black metal, it has also always been a place where that dark genre was evolved into higher, more experimental spheres by bands like the aforementioned Ved Buens Ende, Ulver and In The Woods.
Virus have already released three longplayers. Oblivion Clock came out in late 2012 and is an EP collecting songs written throughout their history but only recently finished. Four of the tracks have so far been unreleased, two are rarities from an obscure seven inch record, and the concluding Shutout is a cover version of a song by The Walker Brothers. But more of that later.
I have been unaware of Virus until Oblivion Clock, and right with the opener and title track, I know that I must have missed out on something truly great. Czral sees Virus less as a metal band than an eccentric rock band, which has already been described as a mix between Talking Heads and Voivod, and as weird as this may seem, it actually makes sense. Most stunning of all are the strange vocals that are actually sung and full of bizarre pathos, but also the strangely half-distorted guitar is like nothing I have ever come across. At times it feels as if the instrument is not properly tuned, or as if the strings are half loose, but over the course of the songs, it all feels strangely right. The following Inverted Escape continues in the same vein, coming up with haunting moods and a songwriting that doesn’t give a wet dog’s fart about conventional structures. The parallels to Voivod are definitely there, but Virus have less of a metal sound, opting instead for a warmer, more organic approach that feels like coming from a far away future when music doesn’t sound anything it does today.
The Pull Of The Crater adds even more weirdness. This five minute track is slower in pace and uses the more moderate tempo to give the guitar opportunity to cram out even more unexpected chord progressions. Gaslight Exit is a three minute instrumental, and then we are in for another surprise with Saturday Night Virus with its incredible disco beat and super funky bass line. I guess no one would ever have dared to predict that erstwhile black metal musicians would turn to something so drastically and diametrically opposed. Seen In The Sediments turns back once more to the "normal" Virus sound, even though that still sounds exceptionally unique. The EP ends its half hour with Shutout, a cover version of a later track by The Walker Brothers. Here Virus sound actually like a rather typical rock band. Yet Czral’s vocals have a lot in common with Scott Walker, and just like the grand master had started in one direction and nowadays practices impossible avant-garde adventures, Czral has also made a similar journey throughout his musical history.
I am already looking forward to future efforts by this truly outstanding Norwegian band that is really a one of a kind project. If only more artists had the courage and vision to create something outside the adopted conventions.